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Archive for October 17th, 2011

Rep. Cummings Attacks Rep. Issa: Calls His Allegations About FBI and Fast and Furious “Reckless” and “Baseless”

 

Rep. Elijah Cummings/govt. photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The political tension inside the Beltway over the Operation Fast and Furious appeared to escalate on Monday, one day after Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) went on CBS’ Face the Nation and criticized Atty. Gen. Eric Holder and the FBI.

On Sunday, Issa, chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, tried to imply that the FBI might be hiding the fact that a third gun linked to Operation Fast and Furious may have been recovered at the murder scene last December of Border Agent Brian Terry, who was killed near the Arizona border. The flawed operation encouraged guns dealers to sell to middlemen or “straw purchasers”, all with the hopes of tracing the guns to the Mexican cartels.

Rep. Issa/gov photo

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.)  issued a press release late Monday attacking Issa, saying there was no third gun, and then chastised him for trying to besmirch the reputation of the FBI.

The release stated:

“Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Ranking Member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, issued a statement expressing serious concerns with statements made by Committee Chairman Darrell E. Issa in a Sunday interview on CBS’s Face the Nation.

“During that interview, Issa irresponsibly fueled baseless speculation that the FBI tampered with evidence to conceal a third gun that he alleges was recovered at the scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s murder. Issa did not disclose that the FBI had already dispelled these claims repeatedly both in public and in closed briefings with Committee staff.

Cummings stated: “It is unbelievably reckless for Chairman Issa to go on national television and repeat these baseless accusations, which attack the integrity and credibility of entire law enforcement agencies and undermine the prosecution of those responsible for Agent Terry’s death. In a closed briefing with Committee staff earlier this month, the FBI dispelled any allegation that they recovered a third gun at the scene, and the Committee has no evidence to the contrary.”

Cummings release noted that Face the Nation Host Bob Schieffer noted that “two guns connected to this operation were found at the scene of the crime,” and explained that the “FBI has said the evidence was inconclusive as to whether those guns were the ones responsible for this murder.”

Cummings noted that Schieffer then asked Issa about his claim that the FBI is withholding evidence about a third gun found at the scene:

“Are you suggesting that maybe that might be the gun, that evidence shows was the murder weapon, and for some reason the FBI has not disclosed that?”

Issa responded: “Well, we certainly want to know in some cases, as you know, there are investigations where there’s materials that people feel are very sensitive.

Issa added that “the FBI has a history in some cases of working with felons and criminals and hiding their other crimes.”

Cummings release concluded: “Issa’s statements on Sunday continue an unfortunate pattern of reckless actions, including leaking a document that had been ordered sealed by a U.S. Federal District Court, interviewing a potential trial witness in the ongoing prosecution, and publicly discussing the use of confidential informants in ongoing investigations.”

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Mark Morgan to Head FBI’s El Paso Division


Mark Morgan/fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Mark A. Morgan, the chief of the FBI’s Strategic Information and Operations Center, Critical Incident Response Group (CIRG), has been named head of the FBI’s El Paso Division.

Morgan joined the FBI in 1996 and was first assigned to the Los Angeles Office, where he was a member of the Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force, the crisis response squad, and the SWAT team.

In 2002, he became a supervisory special agent and served as a crisis management coordinator in the Crisis Management Unit in CIRG.

In 2005, Morgan returned to Los Angeles, where he supervised an FBI-led Hispanic gang task force that focused on the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and 18th Street gangs.

In 2007, he was picked to serve as the assistant section chief of the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime Branch, where he managed the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Units and the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program, the FBI said.

In 2008, he became the FBI’s deputy on-scene commander in Baghdad, where he was responsible for all FBI personnel deployed to Iraq under the Counterterrorism Division.

In 2009, he was assigned to the New Haven Field Office as the assistant special agent in charge with responsibilities for the criminal, critical incident response, surveillance, and aviation programs, the FBI said. In 2010, he assumed his current post.

He has a law degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

 

Robert J. Holley to Head FBI’s Indianapolis Office

Robert Holley/fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Robert J. Holley, a native of Indiana, and a section chief of the Counterterrorism Division at FBI headquarters, is leaving the mothership to head up the Indianapolis office.

Holley began his career as a special agent in 1995, and was first assigned to Chicago where he investigated domestic and international terrorism cases.

In November 2005, Holley was promoted to a unit chief in the Counterterrorism Division at headquarters. He was deployed to Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan, India, Tanzania, and Israel “in support of the FBI’s number one priority, counterterrorism,” the FBI said.

Holley transferred back to the Chicago Division, where he served as assistant special agent in charge of the National Security Branch from 2008-2010.

Prior to his FBI career, he served in the U.S. Army as an infantry officer.

 

Ex-Fed Prosecutor Assigned Rare Anonymous Jury in His Murder Trial

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

Ticklethewire.com has reported preveiously on Paul Bergrin, the “swaggering ex-federal prosecutor … who authorites say became the go-to defense attorney for Newark street gangs.” Bergin “dodged one bullet” in charges of running an escort service of a client of his previously, receiving a sentence of time served.

But now the fed court trying him for allegations of orchestrating a 2004  murder of a witness against  a client of his, has taken the unusual step of selecting an anonymous jury, something only reserved in a mob or major drug trafficking case, reports Reuters. Trial begins Monday in Newark. The judge agreed withhold the names of the jurors.

Though US Attorney General Eric Holder decided not to seek the death penalty against Bergrin, as we’ve written, Bergrin does face life in prison if convicted.

The feds say they have their reasons for an anonymous jury.

Paul Bergrin/photo News12 New Jersey

“During pre-trial proceedings, prosecutors argued that safety and privacy concerns demanded that potential jurors remain anonymous,” reads the Reuters report. U.S. District Judge William Martini agreed to withhold jurors’ names and their employers at an August 30 hearing. Anonymity in such situations is usually granted for a prescribed period of time, the report says, although Judge Martini did not define the length of the juror’s anonymity.

“Part of it is the judge wanting to have the jurors as free of concern for their own personal safety and security as they possibly can be,” said Cornell Law professor Valerie Hans, a specialist in jury issues, told Reuters.

“There are circumstances where the jury names are not released ever, but in most cases fervor and high passion about the case fades rather quickly once the case is over,” said Dick Carelli, spokesman for the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts, according to Reuters.

Bergrin is being charged with orchestrating the murder of a confidential witness in a federal drug case against a client of his. He is representing himself with the help of court-appointed attorney Lawrence Lustberg. Bergrin, who has already pleaded guilty, “has already been severely restricted in his physical movements around the courtroom, and has been threatened with an electric shock if he violates those restrictions,” according to Reuters.

The charges are part of a larger 33-count indictment, including allegations of racketeering and other crimes that make Bergrin “no different than a street gangster,” according to New Jersey US Attorney’s Office press release.

The move for anonymity has some of the defense worried.

“If the jurors know that their names are being kept anonymous, and that it is not the usual practice, then the jurors might sense danger, which works against the interest of the defendant,” said Alan Zegas, a past president of the Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers of New Jersey, and currently of the Law Offices of Alan L. Zegas in Chatham, New Jersey, according to Reuters.

To read more click here.

Dem Sharply Criticizes Rep. Issa for Attacks on Atty.Gen. Holder Concerning Fast and Furious

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Criticism about ATF’s controversial Operation Fast and Furious have overwhelming come from Republicans like Rep. Darrell Issa and Sen. Charles Grassley.  But not everyone agrees with the intensity of the criticism.

On Sunday, Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the Oversight & Government Reform Committee, told CBS’ Face the Nation that he thinks committee Chair Darrell Issa is conducting a witch hunt.

Issa has been aggressively investigating the failing of the operation and has repeatedly accused Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr. of knowing more about the operation when it was going on then he has admitted to.

Holder claimed earlier this year that he only heard of the operation after it surfaced as a controversy. Issa has claimed he knew about it much earlier.

Cummings said on “Face the Nation” Sunday that Holder absolutely “didn’t know” what was going on.

“The man in charge of the ATF has told us, has told Mr. Issa, that he never communicated the controversial tactics with regard to ‘Fast & Furious’ to Attorney General Holder,” Cummings told CBS’ Bob Schieffer.

Cummings said the head of the ATF at the time, Ken Melson, wasn’t even aware of the tactics being used that encouraged firearms stores to sell to middlemen, all with the hopes that the ATF could trace the guns to the Mexican cartels. ATF lost track of hte many of the guns, two of which surfaced at the scene in Arizona last year where Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was gunned down.

“And still, Chairman Issa goes out there – and Republicans – accusing the highest law enforcement officer in the land of being an accessory to murder and things of that nature, and calling for his resignation,” he said on the show.  “Just because … you don’t like some facts, you don’t throw them out the door and say, ‘I’m not going to look at those.’ You look at the entire picture.

“That simply has not happened here,” he said.

When asked if he agreed with the notion that “the chairman is on a witch hunt here,” Cummings said, “I do.”

“He’s come up with these statements and then he goes in search of the facts,” he added.

UPDATED: Oct. 17: 2:05 p.m.

Becca Glover Watkins, press secretary for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, of which Issa chairs, responded to questions from ticklethewire.com by issuing a statement that said:

“Despite his commitment to the Terry family, Ranking Member Cummings and the Oversight Committee minority has been conspicuously absent from efforts to uncover new evidence or press the Justice Department to fully answer questions. Their own rhetoric and actions reveal them as apologists for the Justice Department and not as investigators seeking answers.”

 

Feds, Scientists’ Split on Expanding DNA Profiles for Investigations

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

The FBI’s plan to expand the range of genetic markers that generate genetic profiles in their DNA database is bumping up against some criticism from scientists,  reports the BBC.

Dr. Bruce Budowle, a former senior scientist for the FBI, who helped create the current set of genetic markers-known as the Codis system-for the agency in the 1990s, says the plan is not being driven by the needs of scientists’. He and colleagues Arthur Eisenberg and Jianye Ge outlined objections at the Promega 22nd Internation Symposium on Human Identification.

Updating standards is a good idea, Budowle,  who is now of the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth and was involved in the anthrax investigation while at the FBI, told the BBC. But he said it  needs to be done with more consultation from scientists to ensure that the right markers are chosen. The FBI has not been properly consulting with the forensic science community, he says, according to the BBC.

Dr Budowle said some of the markers in both the old and new Codis systems used DNA fragments so large that they can be difficult for forensic scientists to detect. The longer fragments can be prone to degradation or only available in small amounts. Even if the longer fragments can be useful, Bodowle told the BBC, degraded DNA or undetected DNA is useless.

Bruce Budowle/univ. photo

“The first time around we took a community-wide approach – 21 laboratories rolling up their sleeves and generating data we could analyse and [use to] make decisions,” Budowle, of the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth, told the BBC.

“This time around, they formed a working group of around five [scientists] and an FBI person to decide what the core set should be.

“Should the needs of Codis – our national database system – drive the casework processes, or should the needs of casework drive the Codis processes?

“I would hope the latter is obviously what should be done.”

To read more click here.

 

LA Co Jail — the Target of FBI Probe — is Condemned in ACLU Report

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

LA County Sheriff Lee Bacca won’t be winning any managerial or humanitarian awards any time soon.

Ticklethewire.com has reported on Baca before. He has been accused of allowing a culture of violence and inmate abuse run rampant in LA prisons.  And the Sheriff previously expressed anger that the FBI smuggled a cell phone to a prisoner acting as a mole to investigate claims of abuse. Now, reports the LA Times, an ACLU report has documentation of dozens of cases of abuse under Baca’s jurisdiction.

“If he were a CEO, he’d have been out a long time ago,” former assistant special agent in charge of the FBI‘s Los Angeles office Tom Parker told the Times.

Parker, hired by the ACLU to conduct his own research and compare it against the ACLU findings, says he has been in over 40 jails and prisons nationally. And in his report, he wrote he has “never experienced any facility exhibiting the volume and repetitive patterns of violence, misfeasance and malfeasance impacting Los Angeles County.”

“To an astonishing extent, unchecked violence, both deputy-on-inmate and inmate-on-deputy, permeates Men’s Central Jail and Twin Towers Jail,” he wrote.

Writes Steve Lopez, of the LA Times: “Baca, as I’ve said before, is an unorthodox guy — more of a shaman than a sheriff — who’s distinctly progressive on some issues. But he’s been a lousy administrator and leader in many ways, whether he’s handing out badges and guns to celebrity pals, giving special treatment to acquaintances or loading up on more gifts than all the state’s other county sheriffs combined.”

To read more click here.

 

Indianapolis Fed Judge Drops Suit Against FBI Agents

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

A federal judge in Indianapolis has tossed a lawsuit by a local attorney who claimed FBI agents conspired with the former Delaware County prosecutor to frame him for a crime — namely bribing a witness in a client’s case, according to the Muncie Star Press

In July 2010, attorney Michael J. Alexander filed the lawsuit alleging FBI agents Neal Freeman and James Randall Howard and others “entered into a conspiracy to falsely accuse (Alexander) of a conspiracy to commit bribery,” the paper reported.

It all began in February 2008 when Alexander was charged with bribing the witness. The following year, a local jury deliberated for an hour before finding him not guilty, the Star Press reported. In a separate trial, Alexander’s client and an an investigator for Alexander were convicted of bribing a witness.

Last April, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Young dismissed the case against the county prosecutor. Last week, he dismissed the suit against the agents, the Star Press reported.

The paper reported that the the judge ruled that Alexander “failed to sufficiently allege a constitutional violation.”

“Alexander had claimed that after sending Adrian Kirtz, the alleged recipient of the bribe, to Alexander’s law office wearing ‘electronic monitoring equipment,’ the FBI agents “hid, manipulated or destroyed the recordings” that showed the attorney was not aware of the bribery conspiracy,” the paper reported.

It said Alexander claimed he was targeted because of his public criticism of the Muncie-Delaware County Drug Task Force.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST